Many people know that children of a Social Security recipient may be eligible to receive dependent benefits. These can come in the form of disability or retirement benefits. However, many people may not know that these dependent benefits can serve as a credit toward a child support obligation. As people are living longer, remarrying and having children later in life, the issue of ability to pay a support obligation as people age is becoming more prevalent.
Imagine a sixty-two-year-old father with a child support obligation for his youngest child he had later in life. While once a successful business owner, based on his age and capabilities, his business was no longer profitable. He retired, relying on Social Security retirement benefits to meet his needs. Despite his retirement, he still had a child support obligation. While he was initially concerned about meeting the obligation, he learned that his child was eligible for Social Security dependent benefits that would be paid to the mother in satisfaction of the support obligation.
Despite the mother receiving the monthly dependent benefits for over nine years, she filed a petition for indirect civil contempt against him, alleging she had never received child support. After initially being found in indirect civil contempt, a careful review of the case law in Illinois revealed that a noncustodial parent’s Social Security benefits, whether disability or retirement benefits, can be used as a dollar-for-dollar credit toward a child support obligation. Accordingly, the contempt petition was dismissed, as the child support obligation had been satisfied in full through the payment of the dependent benefits to the mother.
Social Security dependent benefits can be important for any family; however, in the case of divorced couples, it is important to investigate how these benefits can impact a child support obligation. As a child support obligor, be sure you are aware of what benefits your child is eligible to receive and what credit toward child support you may be entitled to. However, whether you pay or receive child support, Social Security dependent benefits are an invaluable resource to ensure financial stability for you and your minor child.